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RA’s Russia Daily News Digest

[In our ongoing effort to become your one-stop shop for what’s going on in Russia, we are going to begin a daily posting of a digest linking to all (or at least most of) the top stories across the web.]

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin spent the day bowling at the Vilyuchinsk submarine base (Reuters)

The Moscow City Court has sustained legality of the absentee arrest of former Russneft chief Mikhail Gutseriev. According to former colleagues of Anna Politkovskaya, the lead investigator into her murder has been replaced, in what is thought to be political interference by the siloviki. Elsewhere it was reported that Politkovskaya’s case has been taken under the personal control of head of the Prosecutor General’s Office special investigative unit Sergey Ivanov, the same department which investigated the case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Deutsche Bank has sold a new synthetic collateralized debt obligation bundling credit derivatives traded on Russian companies, proving investors still have appetite for such risky complex debt instruments despite recent credit turmoil. Meanwhile the United States has urged Russia to join the missile defence race, and a Ukrainian news source says that Gazprom will drive up gas prices on supplies to the CIS. Elsewhere, Gazprom mounted pressure on ExxonMobil to drop gas exports to China, saying it needs gas from Sakhalin-1 for domestic use; and a project off Sakhalin island by BP and Rosneft has prompted the companies to call on Russia to ease the tax regime for offshore projects. VTB Group’s finance costs on $5 billion in loans will rise by 1 percentage point due to the credit crunch; and VTB’s 13% share price drop will postpone the bank’s merger with Promstroibank. Garry Kasparov has accused his Russian publishers of axing publication of his new book due his opposition of Vladimir Putin; and in other news, Putin has lashed out at Economic Development Minister German Gref and ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Oleg Deripaska’s investment vehicle Basic Element has finally submitted an official request to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service to buy Russneft – the most recent private oil company to be stolen by the Kremlin. Sedmoi Kontinent, the supermarket chain owned by Vladimir Gruzdev and Alexander Zanadvorov, has signed an accord to be bought by US buyout firm TPG. A bureaucratic glitch is being blamed for the delay in publication of a presidential decree, causing the late start of the Duma election campaign. In the Duma’s last session, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov vowed to resist populist principles, warning deputies against submitting bills that would increase social spending. Meanwhile the Duma has ratified Russia’s border treaty with Latvia, and has passed a new law on Stastistical Accounts, requiring businesses to provide Rosstat with any information it deems required. The Russian Standard Bank has lost 6 billion rubles in profit due to orders from the Prosecutor General’s Office not to collect supplemental commissions for consumer credit. Gennadi Kryuchkov, a religious leader of the Soviet Union, has died. Australia will sign a multi-billion-dollar deal with Russia on Friday to supply uranium for civilian uses.